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Analyst: Square Enix's Problem Is Their Lack Of Multiplayer

We've already learned that a trio of Square Enix's biggest games didn't hit internal sales expectations.

However, in looking at the list, one wonders what the company would've considered a success. After all, the recently released and critically acclaimed Tomb Raider has sold 3.4 million copies...isn't that not enough?

No, said independent games analyst Billy Pidgeon, who says the game needed to sell 5 million copies just to be "successful." Furthermore, as he told GamesIndustry International, Square Enix's focus on single-player adventures is a problem.

"The AAA market is extremely competitive. Most of Square Enix's franchises are single player games, which are less popular than multiplayer. Square Enix has been a leader in that sector, but now faces stronger competition from multiple publishers, both large and small, including Bethesda, Capcom, Xseed, Atlus and Level 5.

Square Enix's franchises are well established and require ever-higher production budgets to match and surpass past performance. The latest Hitman and Tomb Raider sold in the three million unit range and got Metacritic ratings above 8. Those numbers would rate as successful for JRPGs that earn more from vendors as exclusives and have manageable budgets. But for games with development budgets approaching $100 million to be truly profitable, ratings have to be above 8.5 and sales need to be in the five to ten million unit range."

All right, sounds like business practices aren't where they should be for Square Enix. However, the idea that single-player focus is the culprit doesn't really make much sense at all. Call of Duty may be the biggest name in the industry today and it's all about multiplayer, but the second-biggest franchise this generation (sales-wise, anyway) has been Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed, which certainly doesn't focus on multiplayer. If you eliminated it entirely, I doubt sales would suffer. And let's not forget that nobody is going to buy Grand Theft Auto V specifically for the multiplayer, either, and that's projected to sell over 20 million copies.

Then you've got the well-performing Uncharted series, along with almost the entire RPG genre (The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, The Witcher, etc.). No, I'm sorry, Mr. Pidgeon, that's really not Square Enix's issue. If you've got a shooter and there's no multiplayer, that's a problem. But many will say Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs didn't need multiplayer, nor did many gamers refuse to buy such games because they didn't have multiplayer. That's just wrong.

Tags: square enix, square enix games, tomb raider, analyst billy pidgeon

3/27/2013 11:44:19 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (26 posts)

PC_Max
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 12:28:05 PM
Reply

Its funny that the solution to all whoas in the gaming industry is either aged consoles or now the multiplayer component. I am sure social aspects of gaming is the culprit too for some games.

What it comes down to is devs/publishers who own or create a particular product need to communicate with gamers or at the least fans and see what is lacking, what they would like to see. Sony did it with devs which as lead to the PS4. I realize some are reluctant to show a game in development and see what gamers think, but a number do and it works. Might not save the game, but its a start.

Oh and I am not talking about sampling the market. You don't take a game that lacks multiplayer to a multiplayer gaming community. Of course they would say.... it lacks multiplayer. Some game MP works and is appropriate, co-op works in some others, and some just don't work.

I hope they do research. Geez, I have design small games for kids of all ages and the first thing I look at is... the target audience. Then you sample that audience to see what they think of the game. Take the feedback and incorporate it if possible in to further dev.

No wonder indie games are becoming more popular. The small time dev I think for the most part is more in tune.

Well, if they big guys have the money and they want to experiment blindly ... I guess... bring it on. It just might be fun for the gamers. But please no more excuses. This is just all getting old... as am I. Ah time to hit the arcade. :)

Keep Playing!

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maxpontiac
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 12:29:33 PM
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I would loved to see Tomb Raider's singleplayer offering much, much longer and without multiplayer. But then again, I am that way with a ton of games.

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firesoul453
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 12:30:34 PM
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Looking at say Tomb Raider, out of the minimum copies they needed to break even and make a decent profit. I wonder how many were offsetting the useless multiplayer portion...

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 12:35:07 PM
Reply

hahaha

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cLoudou
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 1:26:36 PM

My initial reaction, also.

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booze925
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 1:09:59 PM
Reply

The biggest culprit for me? $60 games.
I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I can't find it within myself to put down $60 for this stuff anymore. Gotta be careful with my money.

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Ultima
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 1:23:40 PM

> The biggest culprit for me? $60 games.

You're right. Games should be retailing at about $80 by now. That way, companies don't have to sell such massive numbers to make back profit.

Granted, this won't go over well with the gaming populace, which is why companies hide extra costs behind DLC.

I know what you're saying, by the way. And I agree with it. It's just that, from the publisher's point of view, that ("$60 is too much") only makes things harder for them to stay in business. Factoring inflation and the increase in cost of living, the average price per game has been lower than it's EVER been.

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firesoul453
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 1:29:55 PM

I know how you feel man. I can't remember last time.I actually spent $60 on a games. The last few games I've preordered were for $48 because of sales.

And no $80 would be dumb. The number of potential customers goes up as cost goes up.

Noe a days low budget Indie games sell better than AAA games used to

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booze925
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 1:30:22 PM

Interesting, I never knew that, thank you.
Still, $60 is just too much for me. I'm careful with the games I buy nowadays.

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Caanimal
Thursday, March 28, 2013 @ 7:59:42 PM

I FULLY agree w/ Ultima w/ this one. If you go back and find adds from the late 90s and early 00s you'll see NEW games were still $50-60($50 for end of PlayStation era, $60 for early PS2 era games) and some as much as $80, and those WEREN'T special editions. I remember a thread on a forum about the topic, someone posted some store ads from between '95 and '05, if you were to take those numbers and factor in inflation then a new game, standard edition, should be running $80-100.

A lot of people THINK games were cheaper but a lot of them are thinking about late gen games, which traditionally see a dip in prices, but at the begining and in the middle of each gen game prices have stayed pretty much the same.

I have absolutely ZERO complaint about games being $60 today, I plan ahead and save my money, if I can't afford I either let it pass on by or wait until a later date to pick it up, it's really just that simple.

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Ultima
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 1:19:00 PM
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The only way this analysis' comments make sense if if Square regularly produces games that approach US$100 million to develop. Is this true? We know that Versus XIII and FFXIV have been absolute blackhole money pits, one with a disastrous launch and the other being complete vaporware (until proven otherwise). But I'd like to think of those as anomalies, not par for the course.

Square's (console) development process has been awful this gen, almost non-existent. But that's a managerial issue. "Lack of multi-player" is a design choice, one that doesn't necessarily make or break a game.

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The Real Deal
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 1:52:27 PM
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If you don't know a problem exist, then you surely can't fix it. Square doesn't even know the difference between their left and right hand. I can tell you where Square's troubles begin and if down right; end - Final Fantasy. After Final Fantasy 13 the glory days of Square was over.

The reason, simple. Before Final Fantasy 13 i used to buy anything Square regardless if it had Final Fantasy in its name. To their credit Tomb Raider is their second biggest franchise to date but that took two iterations to figure out and yet still lacked some depth. Anyone remember Tomb Raider - Underworld, i sure do; its the only game i didn't finish. Wanna know why? Because it was so buggy i couldn't beat a boss to advance any further and effectively after waiting many months gave up waiting for a patch.

It took years and a whole lot of shady and stupid practices to degrade its fan base to the point we are at today. Sqaure finally might be figuring out that the only way forward is backwards. Looking back at what was sure, what was guaranteed. They wanted the world, if they are smart, they will settle for us their fans. One guaranteed way to get them all back...... Final Fantasy 7 on the PS4.

On a side note i may be secretly hoping they go the way of THQ and have to sell their IP's. I mean could it be any worse? I am willing to take a gamble for the sake of my franchise who i lost my gaming virginity too. Only time will tell!

Last edited by The Real Deal on 3/27/2013 1:55:48 PM

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LaasYaNir
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 3:43:28 PM
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I think I'm in the wrong business. Seems that people like Billy Pidgeon and Michael Pachter get paid quite well to make oddly ill-informed (and mostly inaccurate)assertions.

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Hand_of_Sorrow
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 5:47:32 PM
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SE's problem is'nt the lack of mp, it's the "they don't listen" part
thats the problem.

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Tim Speed24
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 5:59:15 PM
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It's not he multiplayer in my opinion. It's that there are way too many great games out there to play. I have to pick and choose how to spend my gaming dollar.

I can't afford to buy all the games I would like. But if I wait awhile the games drop in price very quickly.....probably even faster now that the PS4 is coming.

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Knightzane
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 7:54:58 PM
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SE has a problem. That problem is they haven't released a game, that they made themselves, since last gen. I know theres been some here and there (Final Fantasy crystal bearers or whatever that wii games was) Then there was the 360 exclusive that wasn't apreciated by the console owners (lost odesey if thats the name) Maybe they should remember who bought their games.

I remember, i'm actually almost possitive, that everyone who bought a FF game had a ps1, and a ps2. Hm.... If they released a FF game or any game for the ps3 i would have thought people would have been hyped for it. instead we get 13, -2, and now -3. The couple thousand fans on the 360 don't compare to the 100's of thousands that SE used to have on the PS. they've been losing those fans, and i am most certainly in that group. If MP was the problem, they wouldn't have been dead to me 4 years ago.

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ProfPlayStation
Thursday, March 28, 2013 @ 7:51:28 AM

You hit the nail, here.

SquareEnix has been trying to copy the EA path to success, by absorbing companies making worthwhile games and then trying to tell them how to run their ****. Trouble is, this hasn't worked out too well for EA in the long run, either; and their EverythingMustHaveMultiplayer strategy is held high and proud. So, no, the problem isn't lack of MP.

The SquareEnix brand had value when SquareEnix made games. They don't make games any more. They have other people make games for them. Their fan base and reputation were their biggest assets, and they've screwed over both of those.

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Excelsior1
Thursday, March 28, 2013 @ 3:45:34 PM

Exactly!! You have to make games to make a profit. That's something Japanese developers have struggled with a lot this generation. Production is way down and so is the quality. Square probably covets Activision's model more than EA's since they love bringing up COD a lot. Your point is still valid though.

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Caanimal
Thursday, March 28, 2013 @ 8:06:30 PM

SquareEnix hasn't been good since their Square Soft days... There are a number of issues from w/in SE they need to deal with, and NONE of them has ANYTHING to do w/ multiplayer. I'm not a mindless drone who can't do more than run around and blast aways, I enjoy a well done story and well done game.

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BTNwarrior
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 8:47:19 PM
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Don"t listen SE! The last time you listened to financial advisers instead of gamers terrible things happened

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Teddie9
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 11:02:35 PM

TRUTH

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Excelsior1
Thursday, March 28, 2013 @ 12:25:27 AM
Reply

Wait. I just read an EEDAR report on CVG that says inclusion of multiplayer in console games has declined sharply. In 2006 67% of console games had some kind of multiplayer but in 2012 only 42% had MP. Apparently developers are learning that inclusion of MP is no guarantee of success and is expensive to implement. The report states that only the top-of-their-class MP games like Cod, Halo, Fifa, Madden, and World of Warcraft have benefited from MP. These types of games were designed with mp as a core part of the game instead of just tacked on. The report goes on to state there is no evidence adding MP just for the sake of having it will increase game sales so some developers are opting to leave it out because of expense.

That certainly runs counter to the perception that SP games are dying out.

Square's problems are systemic. Production is down. FF14 was a disaster when it launched, and it still hasn't came to the PS3. FF13 sold well but Square followed that up with a direct sequel that gamers weren't asking for. Next FF game is yet another sequel. Not very smart at all. Don't forget about FFvs13 which has been stuck in development hell for ages.

Think back to Square's goldenage. They had more than FF franchise to rely on. There were games like Parasite Eve, Einhander, and Vagrant Story. There was Kingdom Hearts. My point is they have struggled with both production and quality on the HD consoles like most Japanese developers. I know they bought Eidos but they just published those games. Square of Japan has its issues with production. Hard to make money when you don't make any games and have your resources tied up in cleaning up the FF14 disaster and working on vaporware FFvs13.

3.4 million copies isn't enough to make a profit? I don't buy that for a second!!! At $60 a pop that adds up to almost $200 million in sales. If you make a game and can't get a profit from that then something went horribly wrong.

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___________
Thursday, March 28, 2013 @ 6:38:36 AM
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sigh........
anyone got a wooden table i can borrow?

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xenris
Thursday, March 28, 2013 @ 11:08:52 AM

are you going to flip it in disgust with this mans comments?

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___________
Friday, March 29, 2013 @ 10:36:23 AM

no, ill be folding it up, finding out where his office is, and going kung fu on his a$$!
cant believe how set in arrogance EA is!
were against DRM, oh yea that stuff that f*cked the launch for the sims, yea thats not DRM.....
EA hates DRM, so what is origin?
f*cking hypocrisy!

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xenris
Thursday, March 28, 2013 @ 11:13:50 AM
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Another analyst who doesn't know a thing about anything.

Ben already pointed out several successful SP games that sell great and some of them haven't the slightest multiplayer offerings, which others have multiplayer that most people don't buy the game for.

No Square failed because they lost touch with what made them great in the first place. They chased the CoD cake and failed because that isn't what they do well. The tried to streamline and dumb down everything in Final Fantasy in hopes that more people would play their game, but that failed too because in the end it was just a shallow RPG, that was still too confusing for people not interested in RPGs and a bit too shallow for aged Final Fantasy fans.

If square goes back to their roots and makes smaller budget games that are more indy but harken back to the PSX era I think they will come out of this.

There is a market for games like the Final Fantasys that were on the PSX, they just need to make a game that is new and fresh but follows those formulas that worked so well in the past.

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